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Dynamite Fear Prompts Evacuation

February 15, 2001

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) _ Police lifted an evacuation order and reopened a highway Wednesday after removing drug-making chemicals and what they believed to be old, unstable dynamite from a storage unit.

Several hundred residents in a quarter-mile area had been evacuated in the morning and an elementary school was closed for the day. Police searched the storage unit based on a tip that six cases of aging dynamite could be stored in the shed.

Bomb squad members found toxic chemicals used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine and stolen goods, Pierce County sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer said. They also found boxes and safes that could not immediately be opened.

Three one-pound containers held an unidentified liquid, Lakewood Police Chief Larry Saunders said.

The 1 1/2-mile-long stretch of Interstate 5 that had been closed during the operation was reopened after four hours. The highway also was closed briefly in the morning while bomb squad members opened the shed’s door and used a robot to peer inside.

The area is mixed retail, industrial and residential in suburban Tacoma.

Troyer said the shed was filled with ``a lot of junk″ and confirming its contents was slow work.

``Imagine a teen-ager’s room on steroids,″ said Sheriff Paul Pastor.

He said the dynamite could have been moved. ``We’re pretty sure we’ve got 350 pounds of dynamite, but we don’t know where it is,″ Pastor said.

That much dynamite could produce a blast half as powerful as the one that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, Troyer said.

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